Philippines losing China banana market—exporters groupBy Riza T. Olchondra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) said competitors from countries such as Ecuador may beat its members to China, which is a fast-growing market for fruits and other agricultural products due to its large and increasingly affluent population.
Only recently, China tightened entry rules for Philippine bananas. As of this month, reports have reached PBGEA that the Latin American country of Ecuador has had talks with the Chinese government to fill the void left by the Philippines.
Geographically, Ecuador is halfway across the globe from China and its distance alone should make its products uncompetitive.
However, PBGEA said, the Ecuadorian government provides subsidy to exporters to give them an advantage.
“We hope for the same kind of support from the government,” said PBGEA executive director Stephen Antig.
Philippine exporters are looking at other markets that can buffer the impact of the virtual ban that China is imposing, Antig said.
Chinese authorities have imposed what industry stakeholders called “unbelievably stringent” agricultural quarantine rules for Philippine products since March this year.
The tighter rules came in the wake of a standoff in the disputed Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in April, although some government officials claim that phytosanitary issues had cropped up even before then.
While the China market is virtually closed to Philippine banana exporters, PBGEA said, international prices of Philippine bananas are softening due to a glut in supply.
The fruit currently costs about $1.50 to $2 per box compared to the previous prevailing price of $4.50 to $5 per box, PBGEA said.
PBGEA has said it may not meet its target 40-percent growth in exports this year due to the ongoing restrictions by China.
Japan, a premium market, is already saturated with Philippine bananas.
However, the Middle East and Europe are also big fruit buyers and may be possible alternatives for the Philippines.
Data from the National Statistics Office showed that the Philippines exported over 2 billion kilograms of bananas valued at $472.4 million FOB. Of the total, 403.4 kilograms, valued at $85,283,479 FOB, went to China.
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